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In light of Eternity – The life of Leonard Ravenhill

By Mack Tomlinson
October 2011 | Review by Peter Culver

Synopsis

Ravenhill’s spiritual life, uniquely marked by experiential godliness, was from its beginning rooted in eighteenth century English Methodism. Had he lived two hundred years earlier, he could have been one of the men laboring in the gospel with John Wesley or George Whitefield. His grandmother, mother, and father were all converted to Christ through that spiritual heritage. Converted at age fifteen, Ravenhill later trained for Christian ministry under the saintly influence of Samuel Chadwick at Cliff College in England. Characterized by a deep life of prayer, passionate evangelistic zeal and a powerful preaching gift, his ministry drew traffic-jamming crowds in the British Isles during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Along with D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and J. Edwin Orr, Ravenhill was one of the few specialists in the 20th century regarding the message of genuine revival and spiritual awakening.

  • Publisher: Free Grace Press
  • ISBN: 978-0-97434-262-7
  • Pages: 600
  • Price: 37.56
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Book Review

My guess is that only a few of us have ever heard of Leonard Ravenhill. If you read this long book you will have in your mind’s eye a man who played a significant part in the kingdom of God on both sides of the Atlantic.

      Ravenhill was a traditional Wesleyan Methodist but he did not hold to the doctrine of sinless perfection. He was born to godly parents in 1907 in Leeds who played a significant part in his conversion and spiritual development. In 1930 Ravenhill arrived at Cliff College in Derbyshire under its principal, Samuel Chadwick, and became one of the Cliff College trekkers, a group of ten men who travelled on foot to numerous places in the North and saw God remarkably at work.

      His ministry this side of the Atlantic extended from 1931 to 1958 and was mostly with the Calvary Holiness Movement, but when this amalgamated with the Church of the Nazarene, Ravenhill opted out. This book throws light on God’s work in these areas and much more. His ministry was remarkably powerful ‘Ravenhill had the capacity by the power of the Word and the Spirit to hold audiences in rapt attention for long periods of time as if it were but a few minutes’ ‘He was not stern in person but gentle’ and his life out of the public eye was exemplary. In 1939 Ravenhill married Martha Wilson. They had three sons and glimpses into their godly home life are compelling. He was a great admirer of Dr.Lloyd-Jones and was deeply influenced by A.W. Tozer.

      Leonard Ravenhill became an international speaker which eventually led to him and his family settling in the USA in 1958. There he had thirty six years of fruitful ministry; sometimes speaking to large gatherings of several thousands, but also speaking to much smaller groups, and with a remarkable one to one ministry. In my opinion, this book is a great read and helpful in many areas, with glimpses into his prayer life-he often spent six hours in prayer every day. There are chapters which throw light on his view of preaching and evangelism; he had little patience with the shallow man-centred evangelism often encountered in the States. He was passionate for revival and holiness; one of his best selling books was ‘Why revival tarries’. We are given the marks of a true preacher, his theology and his ministry of letter writing. Also a list of many of his sermons some of which can still be downloaded. His recommended reading list is both revealing and helpful.

      The more I read this book the more I warmed to Ravenhill and what he stood for and the more I learned. Are there any health warnings? None of any significance but Ravenhill was not an ‘ordinary’ Pastor. There are not many who would be able to sustain six hours of prayer a day! Amy Carmichael’s prayer ‘Make me thy fuel O flame of God’ was Leonard Ravenhill’s life long desire. On his grave stone are these words ‘Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?’

      A long read but warmly recommended.

 

Peter Culver,

Bath

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